Can We Use Telehealth to Reach Underserved Veterans?

Research Paper Title

The Impact of Co-occurring Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders on Video Telehealth Utilisation Among Rural Veterans.

Background

Co-occurring anxiety and alcohol use disorders lead to poorer treatment outcomes for both disorders.

Compounding risk for poor outcomes related to these disorders, individuals living in rural areas face barriers receiving evidence-based mental health treatment.

Video to home telehealth (VTH) has been implemented broadly within the Veterans Health Administration to improve access to care for rural veterans. However, VTH may not be utilised equally across disorders and comorbidities, including co-occurring anxiety and alcohol use disorders, potentially contributing to gaps in care that are not available in person.

Methods

A cohort of veterans who received at least one VTH mental health visit between fiscal years 2016-2019 was compiled from VA administrative data.

Multilevel linear growth curve models were used to examine growth in VTH use over time among veterans with anxiety only, alcohol use disorder only, and co-occurring disorders.

Results

Fixed effects were significant for both time and diagnosis group and a significant interaction between time and group.

For each subsequent fiscal year, the percentage of total MH visits that were VTH increased for all groups but less so for those with co-occurring anxiety and alcohol use diagnoses.

Conclusions

Despite VTH being an important tool to reach underserved rural veterans, rural veterans with AUD and co-occurring anxiety and AUD are at risk for not receiving care using this modality.

Findings suggest that veterans with co-occurring anxiety and AUD are especially at risk for being underserved, given that a major goal of VTH is to increase access to mental health services.

Reference

Ecker, A.H., Amspoker, A.B., Hogan, J.B. & Lindsay, J.A. (2020) The Impact of Co-occurring Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders on Video Telehealth Utilization Among Rural Veterans. Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science. 1-6. doi: 10.1007/s41347-020-00150-x. Online ahead of print.

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